Mobile unit delivers medical care to homeless families
Every Monday at 4:30 p.m., the Community Health Center (CHC) mobile medical van travels to El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) to provide immediate and urgent care. ECHO is the only homeless shelter in North County for families with children and individuals. Carla Hurt, CHC’s physician’s assistant, treats those staying at the shelter, as well as anyone in the area who needs medical assistance. She sees four to five patients every hour.
Hurt has worked in the mobile van throughout the county for several years. The types of ailments vary from colds, dizziness, and fevers, to strep throat, poison oak and trauma. They screen for tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, sexual transmitted diseases and HIV. Other services include immunizations for pneumonia, flu, Hepatitis A & B, and tetanus. The staff is also trained to offer crisis counseling and refer patients for long-term behavioral treatment. “I started as a physician’s assistant treating the homeless over 25 years ago in the Bronx. I know how basic healthcare makes a huge difference in the life a homeless person. I think having a place to come to for help and knowing someone cares provides them hope.” said Hurt.
Having the CHC mobile unit at ECHO enables the medical staff to reach some of the estimated 500 homeless in North County, as well as the working poor. “Many of the people who come to ECHO for the evening meal are working and they can’t take off work to see a doctor,” said Bill Watt, ECHO executive director.
Eloisa Medina is ECHO’s case manager who works with clients to become re-employed and housed. “Many of our clients have significant health issues that have to be treated and stabilized,” said Medina. “Health care is essential to all of us. It’s difficult to resolve homelessness when someone is ill. When we resolve medical issues, then we can work on getting them back to stability and into housing.” The case management staff at ECHO helps families and individuals learn to create an action plan, live with new behaviors, find a job and locate a permanent home.
“After entering ECHO and working with a case manager for about 3 months, ECHO has a 70% success rate,” said Watt. The success rate was determined after ECHO analyzed shelter data from January through June 2013.
CHC’s mobile medical services are funded through The Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) Program of the Public Health Service Act, which makes grants to community-based organizations in order to assist them in planning and delivering high-quality, accessible health care to people who are homeless.
Founded in 2001 by eight caring members of our Community, ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization, is a grassroots, volunteer-based nonprofit that provides meals, shelter, and onsite case management for homeless families and individuals. ECHO is a 50-bed Transitional shelter lifting those who are ready to help themselves find permanent housing within three months of entering. ECHO serves all of north San Luis Obispo County. To donate or learn more about ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization, go to www.echoshelter.net or call (805) 462-3663.